Notts Outlaws face a challenging schedule this week in an attempt to keep their hopes alive of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the Vitality Blast competition.
The defending champions travel to Edgbaston on Thursday evening to face Birmingham Bears, before hosting Yorkshire Vikings 24 hours later.
A hectic period of cricket concludes with another trip on Sunday, with a match at Blackfinch New Road against Worcestershire Rapids.
Once those matches have been played Notts will only have one other fixture to play, the return clash against Yorkshire.
With Notts languishing outside the top four places, simple maths would suggest that the side need to find some of the consistency that swept them to the title last year.
“There’s not much room to manoeuvre,” conceded fast bowler Luke Fletcher. “We’ll certainly have to win three of the four matches, maybe all of them.
“We need to turn it around quickly, but three of the four matches are away from home and our away form has been pretty good – that’s something for us to hang on to.”
The first of the fixtures will bring back particular memories for Fletcher. Just over one year ago he was injured in last season’s T20 match at Edgbaston.
This will be the first time the 29-year old will have played at the ground since being struck on the head after bowling a ball at Bears batsman Sam Hain.
“It’s quite a while ago now,” reflected the fully-recovered Fletcher. “The last memories I have of the ground are happy ones because I was there to see the side win the trophy last September – although I’m sure at some stage I’ll be reminded of what happened, that’s natural.
“I’ve chatted to Sam Hain about it since and played against them twice at Trent Bridge this season, so it’s all in the past now.”
The dangers of a bowler being struck in his follow-through were re-ignited this week when Glamorgan’s Graham Wagg was also hit on the head after delivering a ball to Gloucestershire’s Ryan Higgins. Thankfully, he wasn’t seriously hurt.
“It is a concern,” remarked Fletcher. “There were people talking about manufacturing some sort of face mask for bowlers to wear, to protect themselves – but it hasn’t happened yet.
“I would certainly have tried it, had they produced one but when I think of all the balls I’ve bowled in my life and it’s the only time it happened – I’ve put it all down to being a bit of a freak accident, and hope it won’t ever happen again.”
Thursday’s match is also a repeat of last year’s final and Fletcher finds it strange that neither side has been able to replicate the same consistency this season.
“They’ve always been there and thereabouts and played well against us at Trent Bridge. Ian Bell is in great form and Jeetan Patel always delivers.
“They haven’t changed their side too much from last year and have the same two overseas players, so it’s surprising that they are also looking to put a run of results together in order to qualify,” he said.
“I don’t expect that there’ll be 30,000 there to watch it but for both teams this coming match is just as important as last year’s final.”
Notts Outlaws play their final Vitality Blast home group stage match of the season against Yorkshire Vikings on Friday from 6.30pm. Book in advance to save £4 off tickets by clicking here...